Gayle Mill owners invited to attend public meeting following “bodged” restoration work

Gayle Mill. Photo: John Illingworth.

The owners of Gayle Mill have been invited to a public meeting to discuss the future of the attraction amid growing concern over the building’s fate.

Upper Dales county councillor John Blackie has written to Graham Bell, director of the North of England Civic Trust (NECT), advising that communities in the Dales are “increasingly concerned” about what the councillor claims is the “very poor and completely uncaring treatment” NECT is handing out to the Gayle Mill Trust (GMT).

The trust has been given notice on the mill by NECT and ordered to leave the building, which it has been running for ten years, by March.

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The volunteers claim they have been bullied out of the building, but NECT says the mill will reopen for Easter next year and the closure is necessary because planned work will compromise access and public safety.

In the letter to Mr Bell, Cllr Blackie states: “GMT comprises of enthusiastic, talented and hard-working group of local social entrepreneurs, led by local farmer William Lambert and Tony Routh, a highly skilled local builder, and including a small but incredibly dedicated band of some 40 volunteers drawn mainly from our local communities.

“Needless to say the reputation of the NECT amongst those I represent, and expressed to me in a large number of conversations, is at absolute rock bottom because they think your charity has been anything but charitable in what appears to be a hugely unfair and unsympathetic approach to your dealings with the GMT, and by inference with the local communities here in Gayle and Hawes.”

In the letter, Cllr Blackie described the £1.2m restoration project as “bodged” and criticised NECT’s management of the work, which he said was meant to last for 100 years.

He added: “Instead 12 years later Gayle Mill appears to need a huge sum on putting right what should have been done in the first place.”

The councillor puts a number of questions to NECT in the letter.

He asks why GMT had to be evicted from Gayle Mill while further work was to be carried out, adding: “Working around builders is not beyond the wit of man.”

Stating that he understands NECT has not yet made attempts to secure funding for the further work, the councillor asks for timescales on making applications for funding and asks whether the trust will instead fund the work itself.

Cllr Blackie further asks for assurances NECT will not be looking to convert the building for residential use. He says it was suggested before the restoration that the mill could be converted into luxury flats.

Cllr Blackie finishes by inviting members of NECT to a private meeting with the trustees of Gayle Mill Trust and representatives from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.

He also invites the trust to a public meeting of Hawes & High Abbotside Parish Council, which he chairs, on February 19, when the future of the mill will be discussed.